Children’s Study – Jacob, Part 10 – Jacob Tells His Family to Destroy Their Foreign Gods

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Jacob – Part 10,  Jacob tells his family to destroy their foreign gods

Last time we saw Jacob and Esau reconciling after Jacob fled from his brother, Esau, who wanted to kill him. Jacob made a lot of effort in preparing for this meeting, but ultimately, it was his humbled state, as he limped and bowed toward Esau, that drove Esau to forgive his brother. We are not told what Esau intended when he brought 400 men to meet Jacob, but we know that it is God who softened his heart at that moment because God controls every thought that we have:

Pro 16:1 (KJV) The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.

It is natural for us to choose between flight or fight when our backs are against the wall. Jacob could have prepared to fight his brother when he heard he was coming with 400 men. But do you think Esau would be accepting Jacob if he saw Jacob and his men carrying weapons instead of gifts? Of course not.

This should teach us to have a peaceable attitude towards everyone, not only to those who are kind to us, but especially to those who are rude to us.

Pro 15:1 (CEV) A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up.

Do you think Esau would be moved to forgive Jacob if he saw him running away with his family? Of course not. But God planned to reconcile these two brothers as He worked all the circumstances around them.

Dan 4:35 (BBE) And all the people of the earth are as nothing: he does his pleasure in the army of heaven and among the people of the earth: and no one is able to keep back his hand, or say to him, What are you doing?

Eph 1:11 (KJV) In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

Last time, we left off when Jacob decided to go to Sukkoth instead of following Esau to Edom.

Gen 33:15 (GNB) Esau said, “Then let me leave some of my men with you.” But Jacob answered, “There is no need for that for I only want to gain your favor.”
Gen 33:16 So that day Esau started on his way back to Edom.
Gen 33:17 But Jacob went to Sukkoth, where he built a house for himself and shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was named Sukkoth.

Jacob continued his journey and settled in the town of Shechem.

Gen 33:18 (ERV) Jacob safely ended his trip from Paddan Aram when he came to the town of Shechem in Canaan. He made his camp in a field near the city.
Gen 33:19 He bought the field where he camped from the family of Hamor, father of Shechem. He paid 100 pieces of silver for it.
Gen 33:20 He built an altar there to honor God. He named the place “El, the God of Israel.”

While in Shechem, something bad happened to Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter. Shechem, the man the town was named after, did something very evil to her. When Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi heard what Shechem did to their sister, they took revenge on him and the whole town of Shechem.

God doesn’t want us to repay evil with evil. We are told to overcome evil with good. Let’s continue Jacob’s story as he is forced to flee once more, but this time because of the evil his sons Simeon and Levi has done.

Gen 34:30 But Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have caused me a lot of trouble. All the people in this place will hate me. All the Canaanites and the Perizzites will turn against me. There are only a few of us. If the people in this place gather together to fight against us, I will be destroyed. And all our people will be destroyed with me.”
Gen 34:31 But the brothers said, “Should we let these people treat our sister like a prostitute? They were wrong to do that to our sister!”

Simeon and Levi, of course, are acting self-righteously. They think they were justified to take revenge when someone did them wrong. But God is very clear about whether we should take revenge or not.

Rom 12:19 (ERV) My friends, don’t try to punish anyone who does wrong to you. Wait for God to punish them with his anger. It is written: “I am the one who punishes; I will pay people back,” says the Lord.
Rom 12:20 But you should do this: “If you have enemies who are hungry, give them something to eat. If you have enemies who are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this you will make them feel ashamed.”
Rom 12:21 Don’t let evil defeat you, but defeat evil by doing good.

Let’s continue the story:

Gen 35:1 (ERV) God said to Jacob, “Go to the town of Bethel. That is where I appeared to you when you were running away from your brother Esau. Live there and make an altar to honor me as El, the God who appeared to you.”

In this verse, our Lord identifies Himself once more as God. But we must not confuse our Lord with His Father who created Him.

This place, Bethel, if you remember, is where Jacob saw a vision of a ladder that goes from the ground to heaven. We learned back then that this ladder is a symbol of our Lord Himself who sends His angels, the elect, to deliver His message to this world.

Gen 35:2 So Jacob told his family and all the other people with him, “Destroy all these foreign gods that you have. Make yourselves pure. Put on clean clothes.

Jacob continues to be a good leader to his family, telling them to destroy the foreign gods that they have. These include the gods of Laban that Rachel stole from his father. We have learned that related to the worship of these foreign gods are evil practices such as divination or the casting of spells to tell the future.

Most people today would say “That’s not a problem of mine. I don’t keep statues of foreign gods in my house.” Or “I don’t practice divination or cast spells.” But what these people do not know is that we worship foreign gods when we honor ourselves and our family more than God Himself. How do we do this? By celebrating our birthdays and other traditions that the people of God never celebrated.

Gal 4:8 (ERV) In the past you did not know God. You were slaves to gods that were not real.
Gal 4:9 (ESV) But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

The apostle Paul has written these words hundreds of years after Jacob told his family to destroy all the foreign gods that they have. Here apostle Paul is telling the Galatians that going back to the “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world” is the same as being slaves to foreign gods. What is the apostle Paul referring to as the “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world”?

Gal 4:10 (ESV) You observe days and months and seasons and years!

Destroying all these foreign gods which we have is putting God first in our lives ahead of anyone or anything else.

In Gen 35:2, Jacob also tells his family to make themselves pure and put on clean clothes. We must remember that the word of God is full of symbols and this time the Lord is using clean clothes as the symbol of living a pure life.

Rev 19:8 (BBE) And to her it was given to be clothed in delicate linen, clean and shining: for the clean linen is the righteousness of the saints.

Let’s go back to the story:

Gen 35:3 (ERV) We will leave here and go to Bethel. There I will build an altar to the God who has always helped me during times of trouble. He has been with me wherever I have gone.”
Gen 35:4 So the people gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had, and they gave him all the rings they were wearing in their ears. He buried everything under an oak tree near the town called Shechem.

We are the temple of God. We have learned that on many occasions. The physical things that these people of God did in the Old Testament are all symbols of what God is doing in the lives of His elect.

Symbol: Destroying images of foreign gods
Reality: God is destroying the old man who is sitting in their hearts as god

Symbol: Putting on clean clothes
Reality: Giving up our old lives and living a new life

Symbol: Giving up their earrings
Reality: Valuing the Word of God more than the teachings of Babylon

Symbol: Building an altar
Reality: Living a life of service to God’s people

Let’s continue the story:

Gen 35:5 (ERV) Then Jacob and his sons left that place. The people in the surrounding cities wanted to follow and kill them, but God filled them with such great fear that they did not go after them.

More symbols. Burying their foreign gods and earrings and leaving that place behind are again symbols of living behind our former life. As another teacher put it: “We, as the elect of God, do not dwell on past failures and deceit we ourselves participated in or had to endure on our road to spiritual maturity”.

Gen 35:6 (ERV) So Jacob and his people went to Luz, which is now called Bethel. It is in the land of Canaan.
Gen 35:7 Jacob built an altar there. He named the place “El Bethel.” Jacob chose this name because that is the place where God first appeared to him when he was running from his brother.
Gen 35:8 Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died there. They buried her under the oak tree at Bethel. They named that place Allon Bacuth.
Gen 35:9 When Jacob came back from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again. God blessed Jacob
Gen 35:10 and said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but I will change that name. You will no longer be called Jacob. Your new name will be Israel.” So God named him Israel.

The Lord renamed Jacob after He gave him a limp before his meeting with Esau. He is just now reminding Jacob of his new name.

Gen 35:11 God said to him, “I am God All-Powerful, and I give you this blessing: Have many children and grow into a great nation. Other nations and other kings will come out of you.
Gen 35:12 I gave Abraham and Isaac some special land. Now I give the land to you and to all your people who will live after you.”

This new name comes along with God’s blessings. As Jacob is promised physical blessings, we must focus on the spiritual blessing that is in store for us. This includes a change of our old nature, into a new one that is acceptable to Him.

1Co 15:51 (CEV) I will explain a mystery to you. Not every one of us will die, but we will all be changed.

Let’s continue the story:

Gen 35:13 (KJV) And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.
Gen 35:14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.

This drink offering refers to our attitude as we go through hardships as we serve God. The moment we decide to stop observing the traditions of this world, we will suffer inside because we know our family will reject us. The moment we decide to stop listening to the lies of our church and start listening to God’s truth in the Bible instead, we will go through emotional “earthquakes” and emotional “storms”.

But God is faithful. He will remind you of the reward that lies ahead. He will give you a spiritual family who will encourage you as they also go through the same trials.

Jacob also poured oil on this pillar. Oil is the symbol of God’s spirit which is given to us through His words in the Bible. God’s words are the source of strength and power of God’s people.

Gen 35:16 (ERV)  Jacob and his group left Bethel. Before they came to Ephrath, Rachel began giving birth to her baby.
Gen 35:17  She was having a lot of trouble with this birth. She was in great pain. When her nurse saw this, she said, “Don’t be afraid, Rachel. You are giving birth to another son.”
Gen 35:18  Rachel died while giving birth to the son. Before dying, she named the boy Benoni. But Jacob called him Benjamin.

Benoni means “son of my sorrow”. We indeed go through much sorrow as the new man in us is being born.   But Jacob called him Benjamin which means “son of the right hand” as the symbol of the elect. The elect will be the ones who will be “born again” or “born anew” first. Then the whole world will follow in the lake of fire.

Gen 35:19 (ESV) So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem),
Gen 35:20 and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day.

This must be a time of great sorrow to Jacob as his beloved wife dies. But we are told that this pillar of Rachel’s tomb “is there to this day” to remind us that we also go through much sorrow as we give up our old life to enter our new life with God.

Act 14:22 (ESV) strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Let’s continue the story:

Gen 35:21 Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder.
Gen 35:22 While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve.
Gen 35:23 The sons of Leah: Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.
Gen 35:24 The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin.
Gen 35:25 The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant: Dan and Naphtali.
Gen 35:26 The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s servant: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.
Gen 35:27 And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned.
Gen 35:28 Now the days of Isaac were 180 years.
Gen 35:29 And Isaac breathed his last, and he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Next time, Lord willing, we will start on the story of Joseph, Jacob’s first son from Rachel, his beloved wife.

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